Advice and comments from Carl F. H. Henry.
As president of the American Theological Society, how would you characterize the theological stance of the seminaries?
They are largely pluralistic and somewhat activistic, but not anti-intellectual.
What advice do you have for young seminarians?
Remember that during these years of study your primary call is to be a student, not least of all a student of the Word of God. If you have a roommate, opt for one more devout and more intelligent than you are. Sink your roots deeply into a daily devotional life, for those patterns are set in the early years. Unless you feel it to be absolutely necessary, postpone marriage until the last year of seminary work. Learn to type if you haven’t already done so. Do your term papers as if the fate of Christianity depended on your wrestling of the issue. Read the primary sources. If you work for a higher degree, do a dissertation that addresses one of the important issues of the age. Seek a weekend outlet for practical service and training, preferably as an aide and understudy to a dedicated pastor. Be yourself in your ministry, using to the full your distinctive gifts and abilities.
What’s your opinion of the quality of seminary graduates?
There’s a broad range of dedication and ability. The natural and biological sciences, and other disciplines as well, still spellbind many very competent students. But many seminarians see life more comprehensive and whole, although not a few are victims of their earlier learning. Some will be great church planters; others inquire about retirement benefits before they consider even their first church.
What would you like to see done to upgrade theological education?
Screen ministerial candidates more carefully. Tuition help for seminarians by local churches. Discover and reinforce latent gifts of students. Campus programs that promote the cognitive and the practical without disadvantaging either. Equip the clergy to minister to a media age without elevating self-image above Christ’s centrality. Help them to address the conscience of the nation, to move people by great preaching, to live before the community so the Christian lifestyle will attract people. Discontinue any program that makes every preacher think he ought to have a doctorate.
How important to you is your own relationship to the local church and its ministry?
Like many full-time workers, my active local church presence and participation is irregular. Short-term teaching and lecturing take me away six months a year, three of them abroad in a World Vision ministry to seminarians and collegians. But my home church. Capitol Hill Metropolitan Baptist in Washington, D. C., recognizes this work as a fulfillment of ministerial commitment that reaches many distant congregations.
How important is preaching? What is your estimate of the quality of preaching in the churches?
Great preaching, I think, is at a premium today, even in evangelical churches. The sense of God’s lordship over history is lost, the awesome holiness of God is dwarfed, and Christological emphasis is distressingly thin. But here and there ministers powerfully preach the eternal Evangel, relevantly address the crucial problems of the day with biblical fidelity, and restore the bright stars gone dim in the lives of harried parishioners. I wish there were more, and I wish I were one.
Have you any advice for church leaders?
Faithfully do your homework—spiritually, morally, and academically. Maintain a truly Christian home. Speak the truth that needs to be spoken, do the thing that needs to be done, and others will recognize authentic leadership. Don’t aspire to leadership; it is God’s gift. Don’t become beholden to power-wielding religionists; be God’s free man.
What would you advise a bright, young high school student today interested in ministry?
Students should get under the most competent professors who can meet the specific objectives for which they seek an education. I entered college two years after I became a Christian and regarded an evangelical college as the logical place to gain a Christian world-life view. An added boon was that I made many fine evangelical friends and met my incomparable sweetheart. My counsel is that students should learn from the ablest professors in their field of interest and be sure to associate themselves with whatever evangelical student work exists on campus.
How near completion is your major work on God, Revelation and Authority?
So far, four volumes have appeared. Two concluding volumes, five and six, on the nature of God, are scheduled to appear at the end of 1983. I’m currently at work on volume six. The first two volumes are in their third printing, and have already appeared in Korean; volume one has just appeared in Mandarin; and the entire series is being translated into German.
If you could suggest titles/subject/themes for crucial books to be written by evangelicals, what would they be?
I think of five or six: a comprehensive text on Christian theism vis-à-vis the modern philosophies and living world religions; a major work on Christian social ethics; a contemporary systematic theology; perspective on concerns of Christianity and science with one eye on the debate over evolution; a thorough work on the biblical canon and its significance; a fresh text on the person and work of Jesus Christ; a careful study of the problem of revelation and culture.
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